Archive for the 'Review' Category

Book Review: A Commentary on The Psalms by Allen P. Ross

Kregel Exegetical Library: A Commentary on the Psalms by Allen RossA Commentary on The Psalms, Volume 1: 1-41 by Allen P. Ross

I am a lay person who is a ‘serious (zealous) student of the Bible’, as this blog name suggests. I read the exposition of Genesis by Ross entitled Creation and Blessing and became a fan of him and his style. That exposition was perfect for me and my level of development as is this commentary/exposition of the Psalms. According to Ross it’s “for pastors, teachers and all serious students of the Bible.” This commentary isn’t quite as academic as Goldingay’s for example, but it’s also not for beginners. It’s very thorough, and didn’t leave me wanting at all. In fact, he answers questions I didn’t know I had. It would be a little much for a new Christian, especially the introduction. At nearly 900 pages for volume 1 of 3, it may also look a little intimidating to some. But I like big books.

I find introductions to commentaries extremely helpful. This one is fairly long and extremely informative, and even motivating. One of the most ‘valuable’ parts of the Introduction is The Value of the Psalms. He quotes quite a few people from different time periods, including Calvin, and writes about the importance of the Psalms, how this importance used to be realized, and how the church in general has lost their value and stopped using the Psalms as a model for prayer and use in worship beyond a cursory reading here and there. This has inspired me to spend more time with the Psalms and this is the type of commentary that can be used in sort of a devotional way, for lack of a better term.

There are quite a few subjects dealt with using just the right amount of words, a few of them being Literary Forms, Theology of the Psalms and a guide to Exposition of the Psalms.

Ross is experienced in teaching the exposition of the Psalms in the seminary classroom and expounding them in churches, and has gained a good sense of what needs to be explained in a concise way, which I think shows in this commentary.

As opposed to taking a verse or line from a Psalm for a message (or plaque?) Ross says, “the exposition should cover the entire psalm, and that it should not only explain the text verse-by-verse but also show how the message of the psalm unfolds section-by-section. After all, a psalm is a piece of literature and therefore has a unified theme and a progression of thoughts developing that theme.” He has “not included views down the history of interpretation” but mainly sticks to his own exposition except for various quotes from others used sparingly. This is definitely not a ‘commentary on commentaries’.

Some Hebrew words are shown and explained. There are no transliterations, which aren’t helpful anyway. For those who don’t know the language, he describes the words in a pretty understandable way. Footnotes deal further with Hebrew, Greek (Septuagint) and various English translations.

Each Psalm has his own fairly literal/formal translation along with textual variant issues dealt with in the footnotes. Then Composition and Context, Exegetical Analysis (an outline), Commentary in Expository Form, and Message and Application.

He seems to answer most or all of my questions as mentioned before. Ross explains many of the terms, phrases and Hebrew idioms that people like me can learn from. For pastors it can help in wording explanations. In Psalm 13 for example, Ross explains why it is a lament, how the text shows that the trouble is ongoing, what the significance of an asposiopesis is, and explains what remember means in this context.

I have been given a copy of the book by Kregel Publications for an unbiased review. I’m afraid I sound like it’s not very unbiased because the review is so positive. The only possible negative thing I can find at this point is that the typeface is a little on the large size for me, although half the people reading this would appreciate that. A bit smaller and the book wouldn’t be so large and wouldn’t have as much of a “rudimentary” look, because it’s not. The quality of the paper is very good and the cover design bound to the hard cover (no need for a silly dust jacket) is very classy.

I think this commentary would be valuable for nearly anyone. I would only rule out new Christians as mentioned before because they might get lost with many of the theological terms and subjects, especially in the introduction, even though it isn’t at a high academic or technical level. For those who are motivated though, I’m sure they would benefit in some way and it would be a good investment for the future.

Ross mentions that volume 3 will have an extensive bibliography and writes about how important it is to have more than one source. He emphasized that this isn’t the only commentary one should own. If I can afford it, I would like to acquire the other volumes. I haven’t gotten word yet when the they may be arriving, but if I find out, I’ll let you know. (See Vol. 2 and 3 of A Commentary on the Psalms by Ross for an update.)

Excerpt at Christianbook.com

Publisher: Kregel Academic & Professional (February 29, 2012)
Hardcover: 928 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8254-2562-2

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Mini-Review: Be Still My Soul

Be Still, My Soul (25 Classic and Contemporary Readings on the Problem of Pain): Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Contributor), D. A. Carson (Contributor), J. I. Packer (Contributor), Nancy Guthrie (Editor), Jerry Bridges (Contributor)

Many short chapters all written by different people from different times. Many are Reformed, some aren’t, like A.W. Tozer (I really don’t know what he was except a great Christan thinker), Philip Yancey, who wrote two books on suffering, and more. This may be the best book on suffering that I’ve read even though no single chapter goes into a lot of depth. It’s also good for finding other quality books on living the Christian life. I can’t imagine how Nancie Guthrie found all of these great nuggets, many of them well off the beaten path.

Also see: In Store Now – Be Still, My Soul at Baker Books Church Connection

Book Review: Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi

Haggai, Zechariah, and MalachiHaggai, Zechariah and Malachi by Iain M. Duguid

This book was given to me unsolicited by the publisher, EP Books, and I chose to review it. I had previously reviewed How to Enjoy Your Bible by this publisher.

This commentary is an exposition of the last three books of the Bible. It aims to interpret the Bible text section by section as opposed to verse by verse exegesis. At the end of each chapter is an Application section that deals with how the previous portion of Scripture applies to us today and how it points to Christ and the New Testament.

You will find that the theology is solidly evangelical and Reformed, the latter especially showing up in the Application section. If you aren’t familiar with that term, I don’t think it will be of major significance.

This popular level book is useful for pastors and laypeople who want to gain a better understanding of these three books of Scripture.

The author provides his own translation of these texts, however in the exposition, Hebrew words are mentioned sparingly but in a helpful and understandable way.

Why are these books important to study? “Gospel writers quote Zechariah 9 – 14 more often than any other biblical source in explaining Christ’s sufferings and death.” (pg 11) The commentary helps clarify many of the obscurities of the visions in Zechariah. Also, “The fundamental theological context of these books is the return from exile,”. The commentary helps bring into perspective this relatively small portion of history with equally ‘small’ but significant events.

I enjoyed reading this succinct 241 page book. Though it doesn’t go as in-depth as a more thorough and technical commentary, there weren’t any major questions left unanswered for me. I didn’t feel a need to to go another source for more information, although I wasn’t preparing a sermon or studying deeply.

The earlier mentioned Application section is very helpful. I felt these sections may have been a bit longer than necessary and stretching some things a little far. I wouldn’t have minded a little more content in the expositional portions, but that may be more of a preference than a criticism.

There are the dreaded endnotes instead of footnotes. If you want to look up a reference, to the back of the book you go.

One of the reasons I like reading good expositions like this of the Old Testament is that in almost any section, things learned help to understand other portions of the Old Testament. This is the case over and over again with this book. Whether it’s history, feasts, symbols, Christology, references to passages in other books or any number of topics, this commentary will help you not only with these three unsung but important books of the Bible, but will help you understand the whole Old Testament at least a little bit better.

I highly recommend it.

Hardcover: 255 pages
Publisher: EP Books (Evangelical Press) May 2010
ISBN-10: 085234712X

Buy it from:
Amazon.com
Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service

A listing of the other EP Commentaries can be found here:
EP STUDY COMMENTARIES

Book Review: Ryken’s Bible Handbook

Ryken's Bible HandbookRyken’s Bible Handbook by Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken, James Wilhoit

This book was provided as a review copy from Tyndale House Publishers. This review has been a long time coming and in the future I don’t ever intend on letting a review go on this long since the time I receive the book. I thank them for their generosity and patience.

This book is for teachers and students of the Bible and I think it would also be good for parents to use with their kids. Even though it’s over 600 pages long, it’s a smaller sized reference book and isn’t comprehensive or meant to be. It’s a concise handbook on how to read and study each book of the Bible. Anyone familiar with studying the Bible will benefit from this book.

Each chapter is devoted to a book of the Bible and includes things such as Author’s Perspective, Audience Perspective or Implied Audience, Special Features, Challenges Facing the Teacher or Reader of the Book, How to Meet the Challenges, Form, Genre, Structure, Outline, Timeline, Characters, How To Apply the Book, Key Verses etc. Don’t let that overwhelm you. Each part is concise and very useful and not every chapter has every one of those.

I especially like The Most Common Misconceptions of the Book since this is one thing I’ve been working on for a few years now whether it’s books, passages, verses, etc. I also like Perspectives which are quotes on the book at the end of each chapter by various authors and scholars and somewhere in each chapter there may be a quote dealing with a subject of the book. I also like various Did You Know? inserts which are short factual items related to the book that are helpfully shaded in gray (see below).

Also sprinkled throughout the book are one page articles on the major genres of the Bible and other topics anywhere from How We Got the Bible at the beginning to Apocalyptic Writing in the end. My one complaint is that these articles don’t look different enough from the rest of the book. It’s easy to keep reading and not always realize it’s the start of the article. The typeface is different but that’s the only thing that sets it apart other than the title. A border or shaded background would be helpful.

The very idea of a “Christless sermon” appalled Charles Spurgeon and in the same vein this handbook always looks for how OT books point to Christ but doesn’t press the point too far if it’s scant.

There has to be some interpretation in a book like this but as far as I can tell it’s very neutral. Since my theological outlook is the same as the authors’, I may not be able to discern that as clearly as others. In any case, I can’t imagine anyone not benefiting from this book.

Part of the reason this review took so long is because I read each chapter before reading each book of the Old Testament this year (in addition to having surgery right in the middle). This was very helpful. It gave me a “heads up” on things to look for without telling me how to interpret it or without it being a commentary that I would want to read after reading that book of the Bible.

This is the only book that I can remember reviewing where I really don’t have anything negative to say other than the formatting issue of the article inserts. I often even try to find something negative so that I don’t sound like a shill for the publishers that provide review copies for me. I like it that much.

Buy it from:

Product Information:

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 19, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0842384014
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.5 x 1.5 inches

Coming Reviews

I don’t usually write about what reviews I’ll be doing until I actually do them. What’s the point in wasting the time writing about what I’ll be reviewing and then post again when I review it? But I so much want to be like everyone else and be a cool and famous biblioblogger so I’ll try it this one time. If anyone can tell me why this is a good thing let me know.

Soon I hope to review Ryken’s Bible Handbook. This has been very helpful.

I’ve been eyeing a book called Helpful Truth in Past Places: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Counselling (their spelling). I thought I’d write to the publisher, Christian Focus, and they wrote right back telling me they’d be happy to send a review copy. I’d like to see if what’s written in the book can be applied individually to the reader in addition to a counselor.

book Helpful Truth in Past Places

Book Review: Unburdened

Christian Book Review: UnburdenedUnburdened: The Secret to Letting God Carry the Things That Weigh You Down by Chris Tiegreen

Tyndale House Publishers has graciously provided me with a review copy of this book.

If I were to use one word for this book, it would be balanced. Back to that later.

Right off the bat I have to say I don’t like the word Secret in the title. Doesn’t it say somewhere that there is nothing new under the sun? Maybe we’re above the sun on this matter. I thought we were done with books that say secret or cure or free from whatever. I rather doubt it was the author’s idea to put that in there.

Another small complaint is that Scripture references, of which there are a lot fortunately, are end noted–shown in the back of the book. I would think if not showing the reference in parenthesis at least they could be shown at the bottom of the page. I’ll be glad to look up the Scripture but having to look it up in the back of the book first makes for two “lookings up”.

This book was timely for me. I read it after I had gotten back surgery–a lumbar double fusion. My faith was being tested at the time and I was worrying about everything. Because of this book I made a commitment to worry less, with God’s help and direction of course. Because of the surgery, I read the book and am now reviewing it later than many other people so I will try to cover things that others may not have yet.

The book is balanced because just when I felt he was cheerleading about not worrying on our own, he wrote about how important it is to do it with God’s help. When I thought he may be writing about the power of positive thinking, he would write about how we need to not just stop worrying, but replace our thoughts with Biblical ones.

He balances our responsibilities with God’s, explaining both well from a Scriptural perspective in alternate chapters, including some anecdotes from his own life.

We can’t shed all of our responsibilities and obligations. We have decisions to make, tasks to perform, things to learn, bills to pay, and people to care for. We don’t live in a vacuum.

We can, however, cast all our cares on the Lord. That’s a promise–or, rather, a command. It’s an act of rolling our worries off our shoulders and onto his, fully expecting him to take responsibility for dealing with them appropriately. We absolve ourselves of the responsibility for determining the outcome and handle only the aspects of those burdens that he tells us to handle.

Most of us have read that sort of thing many many times but within the context of the book it’s good to review it again.

What and how God tells us something can be a sticky issue in other parts of the book. I won’t go into that here because it depends on your theology and view of what and how God speaks. Just be aware of those things when reading the book.

One portion of the book I disagree with is that, “Those who see themselves as adopted children of God in whom he absolutely delight find themselves growing in purity in ways that a person focused on his utter need for mercy never does.” The first part of that statement is certainly true. But Biblically we are to constantly recognize and confess our sin and grow in appreciation of his mercy. I will say that he’s addressing people who focus too much on their sin and not enough on being redeemed children of God, but I think he goes too far here. He gives no Scripture in this section other than being dead to sin.

The second to the last chapter, titled Praise, comes awfully close to the “power of positive thinking” type of psychology. In reading it a second time, I can see where he comes so close to that type of mindset, but then comes out of it by bringing the spiritual dimension back into it. I would read that carefully, but with an open mind.

Here are a few more quotes that might give you an idea of what the book is like.

God is deeply concerned for your body, and he does promise to heal us, but he is infinitely more invested in your heart. That’s where his Spirit thrives and does amazing things in your life.

We can never experience any kind of loss that he does not have some kind of provision for.

The fallacy of mistrust is that it doesn’t recognize God for who he is.

We don’t have to figure out the root cause of all our wounds and issues in order to deal with them.

But that’s the goal: deep-down trust that can count on his agenda to be at least as good as or better than our own. Then we can relinquish ours and rest in his.

I recommend this book. It’s rather basic and most of us have read much of what’s written (and I didn’t find a secret) but it’s written in a way that most everyone could benefit from. Knowledge of the Bible is necessary, but there is no deep theological or philosophical jargon that would leave anyone confused. As mentioned earlier, because of reading this book I made a commitment to worry less. That’s very valuable even if I disagree with some of it. On the whole I think it’s a solid book that will help anyone who needs to work on this matter.

Buy it at:
Amazon.com

Paperback: 240 page
Publisher: SaltRiver
Published: June 7, 2010

Book Reviews

Book reviews will be sparse for quite a while, not that you’re waiting for them from me with bated breath. Whatever that means. I’m sure it’s better than baited breath.

The next review will be Ryken’s Bible Handbook from Tyndale which I was very happy to receive even though I had another book waiting for review. (Thanks Laura) I’m reading this along with the Old Testament. This means I won’t be reviewing it until the summer. I normally review books within 6-8 weeks after requesting them and I always review books requested, otherwise I would consider it stealing. I will skim the NT portion and then write a review. I hope they don’t mind me waiting that long. I’ve found the book extremely helpful and interesting.

Another post on books and reviews coming up.

SNEAK PEEK: Radical by David Platt

WaterBrook Multnomah books is offering the first chapter of the book Radical by David Platt. It talks about how the seeker sensitive movement is not Biblical and how different Jesus was when on earth compared to those churches that try to soft peddle the Gospel. I think David Pratt explains these things extremely well and will be a real eye opener for some. He later talks about what our response to the Gospel should be and how we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). He also talks about the cost of not being a disciple.

You can read the first chapter online (PDF file). There is a web site devoted to the book here:
www.radicalthebook.com

You can also request a free companion booklet called The Radical Question here.

Radical

Excerpt:

Consider Mark 10, another time a potential follower showed up. Here was a guy who was young, rich, intelligent, and influential. He was a prime prospect, to say the least. Not only that, but he was eager and ready to go. He came running up to Jesus, bowed at his feet, and said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

If we were in Jesus’ shoes, we probably would be thinking this
is our chance. A simple “Pray this prayer, sign this card, bow your
head, and repeat after me,” and this guy is in. Then think about
what a guy like this with all his influence and prestige can do. We
can get him on the circuit. He can start sharing his testimony,
signing books, raising money for the cause. This one is a nobrainer—we have to get him in.

Unfortunately, Jesus didn’t have the personal evangelism
books we have today that tell us how to draw the net and close the sale. Instead Jesus told him one thing: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

What was he thinking? Jesus had committed the classic blunder of letting the big fish get away. The cost was too high.

Yet the kind of abandonment Jesus asked of the rich young man is at the core of Jesus’ invitation throughout the Gospels.

Book Review: Why is God Ignoring Me?

Book - Why Is God Ignoring Me?Why is God Ignoring Me? What to Do When It Feels Like He’s Giving You the Silent Treatment by Gary R. Habermas

This book is a review copy sent to me by Tyndale. I thank them very much for the opportunity to review this book.

The author knows pain. His wife of 23 years, the mother of four children, died of cancer. He knows the loneliness which follows something as horrific as that. Although he doesn’t go into much detail in the book, this is an author who is obviously writing as someone who is truly sympathetic with the person reading this book. Yet at the same time I don’t think he gets to the heart of the matter and I feel he is often missing connections either with what the reader feels they want or what’s most important from a spiritual perspective.

Much of the book is about how God is working in the world. He isn’t silent. He is working and speaking through healing, answered prayer, angels, demons, near-death experiences and people who haven’t heard the gospel who have been prepared for it. If I was in the situation of wondering why God is ignoring me, I would be thinking, “But what about me? That’s great that these things are happening to other people but I still feel ignored.”

Next he talks about “love letters”. Things that are more subtle than the last chapter like feelings of joy, conviction of sin (a good one), etc. I kept thinking, What about the Bible? I wouldn’t necessarily call it a love letter, but it’s one big collection of letters written by God through people to us. Any time we want, we can hear God speak to us by just reading it. We may not often get a special revelation, word of comfort or conviction of sin, but God’s word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), not just a collection of text. Augustine said, “The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.” Thomas Watson, a prolific Puritan writer wrote, “Think in every line you read that God is speaking to you.”

A strength of the book is Biblical Teaching That Life Will Be Difficult (page 46) that’s within Chapter 3 – Our Favorite Verses. This talks a lot about the Biblical view of suffering which is really what people who feel ignored by God are going through. There is a lot of Scripture given in this chapter. He writes about how prayer isn’t always answered (or the answer is ‘no’). He writes about the Bible saying that life isn’t always going to be rosy, even some of Jesus’ prayers weren’t answered, Christians in the present time are often strengthened through sickness, trouble etc.

Some of the things written about are legitimate and some are on the edge without a lot of backing from Scripture. It reminds me of the book Prayer by Richard Foster. And interestingly enough he refers to that book a lot. I gave it a very unfavorable review here on this blog.

A good quote from this book that I wish he would have dwelt more on is,

By giving God the preeminent place in our lives, we draw closer to him, and in doing so, we just might find that he’s not as hidden as we might have assumed. Concentrating preeminently on God can help promote a mind-set and atmosphere in which he can work more fully in us.

Chapter 7 is what I would call spiritual (in a good way) cognitive therapy, or what we tell ourselves. This is done in a way that isn’t worldly and helps us to think in a more Godly way.

In the last paragraph of the book he writes,

We know so much more than Job ever did, especially the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. With such a foundation, we are more than justified to trust God with those matters we don’t understand. Shouldn’t we be willing to grow and mature spiritually as we wait for our resurrection, which will place all our suffering in an eternal perspective?

This would be a good place for the book to start and concentrate on.

Although the author is a Christian apologist and is a solid conservative evangelical Christian I can’t recommend this book, although it may be helpful for some.

I would recommend How Long, O Lord? by D.A. Carson. The title gets to the heart of the matter and even that is Scriptural. Cries of the Heart by Ravi Zacharias is also good. There are also many good books on suffering in general and trusting God like Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper et. all and Trusting God by Jerry Bridges.

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 26, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1414316887

Where to buy:
Amazon.com
Westminster Bookstore does not sell this book.

Book Review: How to Enjoy Your Bible

How to Enjoy Your BibleHow to Enjoy Your Bible by John Blanchard

I first found out about this book on Nathan Bingham’s microblog where he posted an Interview with Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III. In talking about as a pastor, trying to convince Christians under their guidance about the importance of studying God’s Word, Ligon Duncan said, ‘[G]et your people to read good books about Bible study and prayer (John Blanchard, “How to Enjoy Your Bible,” Don Carson, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation,” Matthew Henry, “Method For Prayer,” “Ryken’s Bible Handbook,” etc).’

I respect Ligon Duncan so I looked into it, especially because I was about to embark on reading the Old Testament again. I already enjoy my Bible, but I want to enjoy it even more!

So I wrote to Evangelical Press and asked them if they send out review copies. They wrote right back and said they’d be happy to.

The book is written at a ‘popular level’ meaning it will be understandable to anyone who has any familiarity with the Bible. It’s at a little more basic level than I expected but that’s only because of the other recommendations that surrounded it. At 180 pages it’s fairly easy to get through.

Chapter 2 – Countering the critics, answers many of the arguments people have against the Bible. Maybe even some of the people reading the book have these questions. The questions that are addressed are: Those who deny its authority, Those who deride its simplicity, Those who denounce its history, Those who dispute its accuracy, Those who doubt its integrity and Those who decry its credibility.

There are two chapters on The excellence of the evidence. The author comes from the view of inerrancy. Quoting Brian Edwards, Nothing but the Truth, Evangelical Press, pg. 139, on the Bible’s human authors:

They recorded accurately all that God wanted them to say and exactly how he wanted them to say it, in their own character, style and language. The inspiration of Scripture is a harmony of the active mind of the writer and the sovereign direction of the Holy Spirit to produce God’s inerrant and infallible word for the human race.

He writes about prophecy, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, history and how the Bible comes from God.

There is the obligatory chapter on translations which is basic and brief. This is a decent chapter for those who aren’t familiar with different translations and styles. As in most books, the more literal/formal translations get the nod. After writing about translation theory and why translations are different, various translations are reviewed including KJV/AV, RSV, NASB, GNB, NIV, NKJB, CEV and ESV. Since the book was published in 2007 I would have expected a different selection including the NLT for sure and possibly the HCSB and NRSV.

After writing about the canon and various means of reading and studying the Bible we come to the chapter that is more than worth the cost of the whole book called The outcome of obedience. The vital link that brings reading and studying the Bible, and joy (enjoyment [I made that up]). This chapter has many quotable quotes by the author and others well known. I will pick one by J.C. Ryle:

God tests men’s sincerity by making obedience part of the process by which religious* knowledge is obtained. Are we really willing to do God’s will so far as we know it? If we are, God will take care that our knowledge is increased.

*religion wasn’t a dirty word back then

He writes about loving obedience, willing obedience, believing obedience, wholehearted obedience and dependent obedience. The last one is “so important that it governs all others.” We are dependent on God’s enabling. This is what takes the fear out of obedience for those who don’t like that word and he explains this concept well in the book. This is key and he saved the best for last.

I would highly recommend this book for those who are rather new to these concepts and need more confidence in the reliability of the Bible, need to learn the various ways to read and study the Bible and learn how key obedience is in this whole process. These things all put together will help us to better enjoy our Bibles.

  • Paperback: 185 pages
  • Publisher: EP Books (October 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0852346700

Buy it at:
Amazon.com

Book Review: The Prayer of the Lord

The Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul

This is a Reformation Trust review. They send you a PDF file of the book, you review it on your blog and they then send you the book.

I use The Lord’s Prayer every Friday as a template for my praying. So I wanted to take the opportunity to review a book on it.

Like The Truth of the Cross, this is a relatively short book on a subject that has a wide interest. The reading level of this book would be ‘popular’ or a little deeper than introductory. At 130 pages it’s not imposing at all. Whenever there is a term that might need explaining, he does so concisely and in a well understood manner. As long as the read is familiar with the Bible and has read the Lord’s prayer, this book will be very accessible.

Sproul uses anecdotes sparingly but wisely, always dealing directly with what he’s teaching as opposed to trying to entertain or tell funny stories to try to keep the reader’s interest.

The first chapter is How Not To Pray. Of course in learning how not to pray one also learns in very general terms how to pray. This is a helpful first chapter that introduces the account of the disciples asking Jesus how to pray.

The main body of the book of course deals with each section of the prayer. These are expository (explaining what it means) as opposed to looking at it from the audience’s culture, point of view, politics, Jesus’ Jewishness etc. That would be for another book.

In the chapter on Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread, he writes of providence and provision as if they are synonymous. This was rather confusing to me because I thought that providence is God ordering of things and provision is God providing for us. I realize there is some overlap and in God’s providence he provides for us but more of a distinction may have been helpful so that readers wouldn’t confuse the terms.

Unlike many other writings and sermons on this prayer, Sproul spends a whole chapter on Yours Is the Kingdom which is the last part of the prayer that some Greek manuscripts include and some don’t.

Chapter 10 is Questions and Answers which deals “other issues surrounding the practice of prayer and the Lord’s Prayer specifically.” This chapter is a helpful bonus.

And yet another bonus is If God Is Sovereign, Why Pray? Anyone who wrestles with this idea will be enlightened and encouraged by reading it.

I felt this endorsement was the closest to how I feel abut the book:

I love listening to R. C. Sproul teach, and this book sounds just
like him—penetrating truths strikingly illustrated. His good
quotations and pastoral wisdom make him as easy to read as he
is delightful to listen to (and the short chapters help!). Sproul
clearly explains the Scriptures with sentences that are simple and
accurate. He knows enough to say important things concisely
and clearly—truths about the kingdom, the fatherhood of God,
history, and, of course, prayer. There’s even a helpful question-and-answer section at the end. This little book now takes its
place with the classics on prayer.

–Dr. Mark Dever
Senior pastor
Capitol Hill Baptist Church

For those who have read books on prayer that cover the Lord’s prayer well, books on the Sermon on the Mount or commentaries on Matthew, this book may be somewhat of a review as far as the chapters that deal directly with the prayer. If you recited this during church but never deeply pondered what it really means or are unfamiliar with this portion of Scripture, this is an excellent book for you.

See excerpts on Facebook.

Hardcover: 130 pages
Publisher: Reformation Trust Publishing (May 31, 2009)

Buy it at:

Book Review: Learn to Read New Testament Greek

Learn to Read New Testament Greek by David Alan Black Learn to Read New Testament Greek, Third Edition by David Alan Black

This book and the companion workbook are review copies sent to me by the publisher, B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources, via NetGalley. I appreciate the opportunity to review these materials.

This review is written by someone learning Greek on their own. I hope this is helpful for someone in the same situation or for someone who is brushing up on Greek learned in the past.

I have looked extensively at a couple of the other popular beginning Greek grammars although I won’t be doing any direct comparisons.

Regarding the aesthetics, the hardcover is very sturdy in addition to being very appealing to look at. The black cover is a nice tie-in to the author’s last name. The paper is high quality, crisp and white which takes to a highlighter very well. The conjugations are in gray shaded boxes which helps them stand out and makes them easy to locate when wanting to go back and review them. The only thing I don’t like is that the font chosen for the Greek is a little less formal than what most of us are used to seeing which takes a little while to get used to.

In a word this book is efficient. There are no chapter overviews, introductions, summaries,  what you’ll learn in the next chapter, etc. which is usually annoying anyway. The author gets right down to business in each chapter. Each of the 26 chapters are short enough that you don’t need those things.

This doesn’t mean the book’s information is skimpy. You will learn a lot of the important terms so that when you read a more technical Bible commentary or read what others write about Greek, you will have learned or at least have a reference for the terms at the beginning level which are explained well.

The exercises for the first 17 chapters of the book are made-up sentences in Greek that the student translates. All of the words in the sentences are from vocabulary that has been learned previously in the book.

Starting in chapter 18, Bible verses are used for the exercises. When there is a word in a verse that hasn’t been learned, the English gloss (a short basic definition) is listed in parenthesis next to the Greek word. This is much nicer than at least one other book where the extra vocabulary is listed on another page, sometimes requiring a page turn so that one is constantly flipping back and forth. There is an answer key for the exercises in the Appendix at the end of the book.

For more extensive exercises there is a companion workbook, sold separately. There is no answer key in the workbook, but if you write to the publisher, they will send you one in PDF format. The workbook (which was a pleasant surprise since I didn’t expect it to be sent to me) has all sorts of exercises coming at the Greek from many angles.

Verbs are introduced in chapter 2 and all of the indicative verbs are covered by chapter 17. There are various methods for introducing verbs in the books I’ve seen. I like having them introduced early so that they can be reviewed frequently as time goes on. There are very helpful charts of the indicative verb forms in the middle of the book. I wish I would have known this earlier so that I could have referred to it as I went along but it wasn’t mentioned earlier in the book. There is also a very helpful large fold-out complete Greek Verb Chart glued to the inside of the back cover.

There are a couple of very important items that were put in footnotes which I think should be in the main part of the text. (There are very few, thankfully, and they are at the end of each section where they are easy to see.) In particular is footnote iii. on page 31 which mentions that kai can mean “both”, “also” or “even”. So be sure to pay close attention to the footnotes.

I believe this book is a very efficient way to learn beginning level Greek. I would think it would be especially useful for someone reviewing Greek that they’ve already learned. I like to use more than one book to be able to read things explained in different ways, but this book is my first choice for the primary book to study and I highly recommend it.

Buy it from Amazon.com

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Academic; Third edition (March 1, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0805444939

Book Review – The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation

book-nivac-revelationThe NIV Application Commentary: Revelation by Craig Keener

I liked this commentary so much I thought I’d write a mini-review with some information about Craig Keener and type out some of the quotes I liked.

Craig Keener is someone who has an extraordinary passion for the Bible and a very high view of Scripture and God’s sovereignty. He’s an excellent exegete influenced by Gordon Fee and nearly as objective in his interpretation.

He’s also lived in dangerous urban environments where his life has been threatened and he knows what it is to be persecuted, as much as can be in the U.S. and he writes briefly about some of these experiences as they relate to the book of Revelation.

If you’d like to learn more about him you can read Fridays with Craig Keener at Word and Spirit, a series of eight interviews (in reverse order here).

Here is a brief video where Craig S. Keener tells the story behind the NIVAC Revelation commentary. He writes about this in the preface of the commentary.

My exposure to Revelation has been reading through it a few times, participating in a group Bible study on it which I have almost no recollection of and reading about bits of it here and there in various books. I wanted a commentary that was substantial, but not a large technical tome such as Aune or Beale. The only other NIVAC commentary I have is the one on Luke and I was a little disappointed in it as a commentary. It’s a great book on the life and teachings of Jesus, but many questions weren’t addressed. So I was reluctant to try another one but this didn’t disappoint at all. It seemed to be tailor made for someone like me.

In the commentary portion Keener addresses nearly all of the text of Revelation succinctly but fully. I never felt that there was a portion that was glossed over without addressing it.

In the Bridging Contexts sections he often writes about common gross misinterpretations, interpretations throughout history and how the passage relates to other parts of Scripture among other things which is extremely helpful.

Some may think it difficult to write about how the whole book of Revelation is relevant to us today but Keener does this with ease in the Contemporary Significance sections.

Here are some of my favorite quotes.

The necessity of remaining faithful until the end (Revelation 2:26) fits historic Calvinist and Arminian belief: The former argue that those who fall away were never converted, whereas the latter argue that they have lost their salvation–but both concur that they will not be saved. Verses such and this one and countless others, however, may prove uncomfortable to those who think that merely praying a prayer without truly persevering in Christian faith is adequate for salvation.

One [also] wonders how Luther, Calvin, Wesley, or others would feel about some who in their name privilege theological traditions above firsthand study of Scripture itself.

…not a single text supports addressing the devil as if he were omnipresent, during prayer. [On spiritual warfare, rebuking the devil etc. Revelation 12:7-9]

More quotes to come in future posts.

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Book Review: In Christ Alone

In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

This is a Reformation Trust review.

Sinclair Ferguson draws heavily on the Gospel of John and the book of Hebrews to paint a portrait of Christ and His sufficiency for living out our faith.

The book is accessible for the lay person but meaty enough for anyone, although it may not be for those who are new Christians.

The book is comprised of 50 somewhat short chapters making it suitable for devotional reading. The chapters are divided into six sections, each pertaining to a different aspect of Christology.

The book is one quotable quote after another. The chapter entitled Santa Christ? has been quoted in part on blogs from time to time.

Ferguson’s theology is fully and obviously Reformed, but the nature of the book is not polemic, apologetic or comparative. He even gives a few warnings to those who are Reformed.

The apostles saw that Pentecost was a once-for-all-time, epoch-making event, but with often-repeatable elements built into it. The empowering for witness that Jesus promised was to be limited neither to the single event of Pentecost nor exclusively to the apostles. It extended beyond their persons and time (Acts. 2:4).

A Word to the Reformed

This is what we still need: power to witness. The truth is that nothing would as readily silence gainsayers against the Reformed faith as would this. Far more important, it is only through such empowering that we will get beyond witnessing to fellow Christians about the Reformed faith and start witnessing to non-Christians about saving faith.

His zeal for Scripture is evident:

[A]biding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our
minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections. In other words, our relationship to Christ is intimately connected to what we do with our Bibles!

For those who have a hard time with the book of Hebrews (although I’m not sure why there are so many), Ferguson explains how “there is no letter in the New Testament that tells us more about Christ and His work” in the chapter entitled: Hebrews—Does It Do Anything for You?

Some of the later chapters seem a bit disjointed. Maybe this is because the book began as articles in Table Talk and Eternity Magazine. However, this is only a stylistic point and doesn’t detract from the quality of the content.

Other than that minor point, I have nothing negative to say about this book. While reading it I found myself worshiping our Savior, learning more about Jesus, having some questions answered and looking foreword the the next chapter. It’s the best book I’ve read in a long time, and so far it’s my favorite of the books I’ve read from Reformation Trust. I highly recommend it.

Book details:

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Reformation Trust Publishing
  • Publication Date: December 15, 2007
  • ISBN-10: 1567690890

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Software Review: BibleWorks 8 – Part 3 of 3

BibleWorks Logo

Miscellaneous Helpful Features in BibleWorks

The Command Line alone is a wondrous thing. So many different types of searches can be performed that I can’t think of much of anything that couldn’t be done. There is an extensive Help file page devoted to the Command Line. In English, any number of searches can be performed and for geeks, regular expressions can be used.

An example of a more complex search would be:
(/grac* faith*).5(/law* work*)

would give you:
a form of “grac…” OR “faith…” AND a form of “law…” OR “work…” within 5 verses

There is also a more user friendly Command Line Assistant and plenty of examples. For even more complex searches that the Command Line can’t do there is the Graphical Search Engine.

A number of Greek syntax searches can be done. You could search for all verbs within a range of verses, narrow that down to first person singular and/or plural, or any number of other syntactical searches.

Which Version Uses that Word?
Do you or have you used more than one translation in your life? Do you sometimes try to find a word or phrase that you are certain is in the Bible, but cannot remember which translation has it? BibleWorks can help you find a word or phrase even if you cannot remember which translation contains it.”

Vocabulary Flashcards
You can find vocabulary sets for Hebrew and Greek including Greek sets from Croy (a book I’m going through), Mounce, Black and others. These include sound files with a choice of Erasmian Greek or thankfully, modern pronunciation! I don’t use Erasmian and if I want to hear something pronounced I would rather hear something closer to what I use.

The Synopsis Window helps you to find predefined parallel Gospel passages, places where the New Testament quotes the Old Testament and parallel passages in the Old Testament. Another feature that helps you find similar information but wider in scope is the Related Verses Tool. When choosing a Greek morphology version, it will automatically remove words of lesser importance like contractions, articles, etc. In the example below you can see that I clicked on the verse in Isaiah in the middle window and it shows up in the right window.

bw-related-verses-tool
Click for a larger image.

Search and Display Favorites
You can create favorite lists of translations to display when doing a search. I have a main favorite (which I named f1), one for the Old Testament (which will display a Hebrew Bible that can be linked to a lexicon), one that displays mainly formal (more literal) translations, one that displays mainly dynamic and paraphrases etc.

bw-version-favorites
Click for a larger image.

What I would like to see in BibleWorks

  • A popular paraphrase translation like The Message or the Good News Bible (for occasional comparison)
  • I was a little disappointed in the section on A Brief Description of Major English Translations. Only a few of the translations were given descriptions and outdated terms like word-for-word are used for some translations. I know it’s “brief” but it would be nice to see that updated and expanded. I was hoping to find more information on each translation included in the program all in one place. Maybe this is asking a bit much.
  • Some functions require going down a couple menu items in order to perform it. For example, to uncheck all boxes of verses that appear in the Search Window results, you must right click and go down two menus in order to uncheck all the boxes. I would think there could be a button or keyboard shortcut for something like this, although there are a lot of keyboard shortcuts for many functions within the program. I would also like to see custom toolbars where a new toolbar can be created with buttons for functions that are frequently used. This would be a major task for the software developers since there are so many functions in the program. But I have seen this done with high end graphics programs and it greatly speeds up the process.
  • Commentaries by Gill, Clarke and a few others that can be found for e-Sword

Regarding commentaries: An advantage of using BibleWorks is that when displaying a verse in the Browse window, you will find all of the resources available pertaining to that verse in the Resources window. When looking at a commentary, it will not only give you a link to the commentary for that verse, but also links for every other instance that verse is mentioned in the whole commentary.

bw-commentary
Click for a larger image.

Ease of Use

The learning curve is as shallow or as steep as you’d like to make it. The box that the CDs come in has a 16 page Quick-Start Guide for guiding you through installation and basic functions. That, along with right clicking and pressing F1 everywhere in the program, and going through all of the menu items at the top of the program will show you most of what the program has to offer.

Going from the Command Line/Results window on the left, to the Browse window in the middle and to the Analysis window at the right is intuitive and easy to navigate.

If you’d like to go deeper into exegesis, sermon preparation, etc. the aforementioned Performing Common Tasks in BibleWorks will guide you through only what you need to know.

If you are like me and like to read owner’s manuals you will be greatly rewarded by going through the whole help file system. You won’t remember everything you read because of the program’s vast capabilities, but you will know what every function of the program does and you can go back and relearn whatever is necessary when the time comes.

There is also their official BibleWorks User Forums where I’ve gotten quick replies to a couple of questions I had that don’t fall under the area of technical support.

I hope that gives you a glimpse of just some of the things that this software can do and help you with making a decision in which Bible software to purchase.